MiVT: Wildlife Sculpting

ALBANY, Vt. (WCAX) An artist is mixing his biology background with his superior sculpting skills and bringing birds to life in his Albany home.

Growing up in a military family, Art Wolff never settled in one place too long. With all the lifestyle changes, he took an interest in the nature and the environment around him. "Just the beauty of it, you find your place, your comfort," Wolff said.

He went on to earn a biology degree and worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the Division of Birds. The bird collections at the museum inspired him to carve and paint his own bird sculptures.

"And when you can take a piece -- and they can look at it so close, little kids can even touch it and it excited them about that -- for me, it's a way of strengthening the advocacy for what we have," Wolff said.

There's a ton of research that goes into Wolff's sculptures, including the occasional Google image search. "It's a process of exploration. A bird like this would probably take about 40 to 45 hours from start to finish," he said.

Wolff is a master sculptor in Vermont, Maine and New Brunswick, but he also competes on a world level. "It is so inspiring, because it's just -- you meet a lot of friends, you share techniques, and it's just a great thing that I would recommend to anyone," Wolff said.

Wolff uses Tupelo Wood, which is soft and lightweight. It's found in the south and in the east. For paint, he's moving away from acrylics and is starting to use oil-based. "Only when you start painting to try and replicate the way something looks do you realize the complexity of all the colors," he said.

Not only does he make the birds, he makes the items that they're on, whether it's a pine cone or a piece of bark. "This piece of wood is carved and this piece I found in a river," Wolff explained. "it's a really cool thing to try and duplicate even a piece of wood to make it look like it's supposed to."

Most of his work is commissioned, but he tries to balance that with small, more affordable projects. "You'd have to share with me a picture that really moves you and be able to tell me why that moves you, and if I can get people hooked on that exploration and seeing things that they've never seen before -- that's great, because I'm happy," Wolff said.

Wherever you may migrate, Art Wolff's bird sculptures bring nature to you.